Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Rumsfeldian&trade Apologies

First, the New York Times is too kind:
In doing so - reviewing hundreds of articles written during the prelude to war and into the early stages of the occupation — we found an enormous amount of journalism that we are proud of. In most cases, what we reported was an accurate reflection of the state of our knowledge at the time, much of it painstakingly extracted from intelligence agencies that were themselves dependent on sketchy information. And where those articles included incomplete information or pointed in a wrong direction, they were later overtaken by more and stronger information. That is how news coverage normally unfolds.

But we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge.
The problematic articles varied in authorship and subject matter, but many shared a common feature.
Five days later, The Times reporters learned that the tubes were in fact a subject of debate among intelligence agencies. The misgivings appeared deep in an article on Page A13, under a headline that gave no inkling that we were revising our earlier view ("White House Lists Iraq Steps to Build Banned Weapons").
We consider the story of Iraq's weapons, and of the pattern of misinformation, to be unfinished business. And we fully intend to continue aggressive reporting aimed at setting the record straight.[Nitpicker emphasis]
The NYT also provides us with a a sampling of the faulty articles they printed about Iraq's weapons and the decisions that led us into Iraq. "A sampling" implies they are aware of others but for some reason elected not to be completely forthcoming. So, if I have it straight ... We're basically pretty great but, on occasion we let things slide a bit in our investigating and reporting. However, even though one reporter (spelled J-u-d-i-t-h M-i-l-l-e-r) was responsible for more than 60% of the cited articles we don't find any discernible pattern in our 'less than aggressive' reporting. Furthermore, no one will be resigning or otherwise losing their job(s) and we promise to continue to do something we have failed to do to date -that is, report aggressively and set the record straight. Maybe you could also restrict your "views" to the Opinion and Editorial pages, and leave them off of those pages on which you are suppose to be reporting events.

Next we have the FBI issuing a press release/apology:
Using standard protocols and methodologies, FBI fingerprint examiners determined that the latent fingerprint was of value for identification purposes. This print was subsequently linked to Brandon Mayfield. That association was independently analyzed and the results were confirmed by an outside experienced fingerprint expert.

Soon after the submitted fingerprint was associated with Mr. Mayfield, Spanish authorities alerted the FBI to additional information that cast doubt on our findings. As a result, the FBI sent two fingerprint examiners to Madrid, who compared the image the FBI had been provided to the image the Spanish authorities had.

Upon review it was determined that the FBI identification was based on an image of substandard quality, which was particularly problematic because of the remarkable number of points of similarity between Mr. Mayfield's prints and the print details in the images submitted to the FBI.[Nitpicker emphasis]
To which I respond, "Bullshit!" Digital images are routinely compared every day, by latent examiners all over the world. An examiner doesn't deem an image of "substandard quality" as "of value for identification". In their defense they offer that when all was said and done, there were still a "remarkable number of points of similarity" between the latent and Mr. Mayfield's prints. They neglect to tell us whether that remarkable number was, or was even close to the 15 points previously identified by them or whether it was closer to the 8 points of questionable similarity that caused the skepticism of the Spaniards. I'll state the obvious here ... When you have a poor quality image there is a greater chance that it will not match any individual (identifying marks may be obscured or missing) to a great degree rather than the reverse. A whorl is not go to become a loop, distinctive ridge endings (that coincidentally match in form and position those from a print(s) in the database) are not going to be created. I question that SOPs were followed, but if they were they clearly need to be changed. My experience with Quality Assurance at the FBI laboratory (albeit in a different scientific area) is that it is synonymous with paper generation, irrespective of the value of the documentation. Bottom line is, bullshit. This never even remotely resembled something that should have been reported as an identification and there's a lot more behind that fact that it was reported as such. Again, it's likely no one will lose their job or in any way be held accountable for this.


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